Seasonal fluctuations in mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu) and selenium (Se) concentrations were studied in black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) from Kongsfjorden, Svalbard (79°57'N, 12°12'E). Element concentrations were determined in muscle and liver tissue in kittiwakes collected in May, July and October 2007. Stable isotopes of carbon (δ(13)C) and nitrogen (δ(15)N) were analysed in muscle tissue to calculate trophic position (TP) and examine the possible influence of carbon source on element accumulation. Metallothionein (MT) concentrations in liver, as well as Hg and Cd concentration in size-fractionated liver supernatant were determined to evaluate the association between elements and MT. Mercury concentrations declined from May through July to October in both tissues, while concentrations of Cd were similar in May and July and lower in October. A decline in TP between May and July, indicating a shift from fish-based diet towards an invertebrate-based diet explains the declining Hg concentration. The low Hg and Cd concentrations in October may be a result of an increased elimination, probably related to moulting. Selenium decreased in the same manner as Hg in liver and muscle, possibly related to the formation of Se-Hg complexes. Zinc and Cu did not fluctuate in muscle tissue, whereas hepatic Zn concentrations where highest in May. Hepatic Zn concentrations were higher in females compared to males in May, possibly related to egg production. Hepatic MT concentrations were lower in October compared to July, following the same trend as Hg and Cd. Cadmium was predominantly bound to the MT fraction of proteins in liver tissue, whereas Hg was associated with the larger proteins, indicating that MT was not sequestering Hg in the kittiwakes.
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